The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Column: Wordle — UNC's newest pandemic

DTH Photo Illustration. A UNC student shows off their impressive three-try Wordle score as they wait for the next day's puzzle.
Buy Photos DTH Photo Illustration. A UNC student shows off their impressive three-try Wordle score as they wait for the next day's puzzle.

Editor's note: This article is satire.

Growing up, we always learned that marijuana was a "gateway drug." I’ve always questioned the validity of that fact — you smoke weed once, and then the gateway to Every Drug Ever will just magically appear? 

D.A.R.E. did get one thing right: For every input, there’s an output. For every cause, an effect. But while weed is a rather safe substance, UNC has fallen into a much more serious and far more permanent addiction: Wordle.

Wordle is a website that contains a 5-by-6 grid with a bank of letters underneath. 

You get six tries to guess the five-letter word, with each lower level becoming more demeaning as you move down. If you get a green letter, you guessed the right letter in the right place; if you get a yellow letter, you guessed a right letter in the wrong place and if you get a gray letter, the letter is incorrect altogether and are automatically considered a drain on society. 

With that system, Wordle is akin to tiers of social hierarchy — think Jeff Bezos and the one percent on the first level, but instead of profiting off countless underpaid workers to make their way to the top, they just correctly guessed the word “money” (but couldn’t guess “equal,” weirdly enough).

The first case of Wordle on UNC’s campus appeared on Jan. 7, according to the UNC Wordle Dashboard (you can find it right next to the COVID-19 dashboard — the data is surprisingly similar). We are currently experiencing a massive spike, and there are already countless variants — each more contagious than the last. However, instead of the delta or omicron variant, we have Nerdle, Sweardle (you guess swear words instead of real words), Absurdle, Queerdle, Taylordle (for all the Swifties out there) and Lordle of the Rings. 

One highly anticipated variant is “Chaperdle,” a Chapel Hill-centered Wordle containing words like “Kevin,” “Gusky” and “Myclassesareslowlybutsurelydestoryingmymentalhealth.” 

OK, fine, you’re right — Gusky isn’t a real word.

The tangible effects of Wordle on UNC’s campus are already widespread. For starters, GPAs are declining faster than you can say “Tar Heel Tracker,” because many students have dropped their majors in favor of a brand new Wordle studies major. In fact, we’re seeing a high percentage of pre-med students switching to this revolutionary major — it’s almost as though they were just looking for a way out!

The WRDL 101 class has also taken the student body by storm, with such a high demand that the professor (rumor has it that it’s going to be John or Hank Green) is booking the Dean Dome every Monday and Wednesday from 2 to 3:15 p.m. to lecture the class. 

If you start to hear a banging sound, don’t worry — it’s either the incessant migraine pulsating inside your head from constant staring at the Wordle grid on your phone screen or Brady Manek hitting a three. 

This class raises a few important questions about the role of the Honor Code and cheating. As hard as it is to admit, we all used to search up those Poptropica island cheats every now and again growing up — but with Wordle, it’s different. 

Wordle is more than a game, and knowingly playing the Wordle if you’ve already overheard the answer will land you in an Honor Court meeting. There’s even a “Where Y’all Wordling UNC” Instagram account (a spin-off of the charming and beloved “Where Y’all Going UNC”), which serves to expose Wordlers who are cheating and deserve to pay the price of public humiliation and possible disenrollment from the University. 

However, one facet of UNC life that we never expected Wordle to affect is our nightlife. It was reported at a fraternity party last Saturday during Gunna’s “pushin P” — the song was paused halfway through with an announcement from the DJ saying, “It dropped!” Speculations started flying around — what had dropped? Kanye’s new album? Rihanna’s baby name? That one Kappa Sig guy’s ... never mind.

But after further clarification and a drunken glance at the clock, party attendees realized the obvious: It was a new day, and therefore, a new Wordle. (From this point on, the entire frat fell into a silence so distinct you could hear a roofie drop into a Solo cup until one staggering senior yelled, “Guys, I won!” and then proceeded to face-plant into the table. Ironically, the Wordle for the day was “drunk.”)

This issue isn’t just affecting college students. Wordle has completely reshaped the college admissions process for seniors. Forget a 35 on the ACT or a 1560 SAT, if you get the Wordle on your first try, you’re headed to an Ivy League of your choice on a full ride. 

During this most recent application cycle, it was found that 80 percent of CommonApp essays were related to Wordle in some way, shape or form. These essays could consist of everything from a charming story about how one girl had finally found herself through Wordle after years of self-identity issues to an anecdote about how a boy was kicked out of his home by his father with the words, “You just aren’t good enough at Wordle, son.”

One phenomenon we're seeing across campus is a diagnosis known as “Five-Letter Word Syndrome,” or FLWS. Campus Health is experiencing a steadily rising influx of these patients. All seem to have the same issue — they can only talk in sentences with five-letter words. All I have to say to those poor students is: That’s Truly Tough, Minus Worry About These Other Class Issue(s), Rally Early.

Yeah, that was even harder than I thought it was going to be.

When asked about this pervasive issue spreading around campus, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz declined to comment. For once, I don’t think it was out of a lack of transparency — a new Wordle had just dropped right as I began interviewing him, and he’s only human, right?

No matter if your Wordle screen time is 23 hours out of the day or you’re just beginning to hop on the trend, I urge you to simultaneously respect and beware this addictive entity. It’s both a blessing and a curse, but I believe that as we adapt and learn as a society, the Wordle pandemic will soon become endemic. However, if you do get sucked into this never-ending portal despite my warnings, I won’t even tell you "I told you so" — I’m always “right.” 

(Hey, I got that one first try! Harvard, here I come.)


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